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For instance, I do not grasp the exigency of the alarm clock (itscharacter as a demand) in a kind of disinterested perception but onlyin the very act of responding to it, of getting up. If I fail to get upthe alarm has, to that very extent, lost its exigency. Whymust I get up? At this point I may attempt to justify itsdemand by appeal to other elements of the situation with which thealarm is bound up: I must get up because I must go to work. From thispoint of view the alarm's demandappears—and is—justified, and such justificationwill often suffice to get me going again. But the question of thefoundation of value has simply been displaced: now it is my job that,in my active engagement, takes on the unquestioned exigency of ademand or value. But it too derives its being as a value from itsexigency—that is, from my unreflective engagement in the overallpractice of going to work.Ought I go to work? Why not be “irresponsible”?If a man's got to eat, why not rather take up a life of crime? Ifthese questions have answers that are themselves exigent it can onlybe because, at a still deeper level, I am engaged as having chosenmyself as a person of a certain sort: respectable,responsible. From within that choice there is an answer ofwhat I ought to do, but outside that choice there is none—whyshould I be respectable, law-abiding?—for it is onlybecause some choice has been made that anything at all canappear as compelling, as making a claim on me. Only if I amat some level engaged do values (and so justification interms of them) appear at all. The more I pull out of engagement towardreflection on and questioning of my situation, the more I amthreatened by ethical anguish—“which is the recognition ofthe ideality of values” (Sartre 1992: 76). And, as with allanguish, I do not escape this situation by discovering the true orderof values but by plunging back into action. If the idea that valuesare without foundation in being can be understood as a form ofnihilism, the existential response to this condition of the modernworld is to point out that meaning, value, is not first of all amatter of contemplative theory but a consequence of engagement andcommitment.

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If there is nevertheless good sense in talking of the singularity ofmy existence, it will not be something with which one starts butsomething that gets achieved in recovering oneself fromalienation or lostness in the “crowd.” If the normative isfirst of all the normal, however, it might seem that talk about a normfor thesingularity of existence, a standard for thinking about whatis my ownmost just as I myself, would be incoherent. It ishere that the idea of “authenticity” must come into focus.


Library of Congress Catalog Data: ISSN 1095-5054

A blood-spattered Roman trader lies dead. You have until dawn to gather the evidence and identify the culprit.

On the existential view, to understand what a human being is it is notenough to know all the truths that natural science—including thescience of psychology—could tell us. The dualist who holds thathuman beings are composed of independentsubstances—“mind” and “body”—is nobetter off in this regard than is the physicalist, who holds thathuman existence can be adequately explained in terms of thefundamental physical constituents of the universe. Existentialism doesnot deny the validity of the basic categories of physics, biology,psychology, and the other sciences (categories such as matter,causality, force, function, organism, development, motivation, and soon). It claims only that human beings cannot be fully understood interms of them. Nor can such an understanding be gained bysupplementing our scientific picture with a moralone. Categories of moral theory such as intention, blame,responsibility, character, duty, virtue, and the like docapture important aspects of the human condition, but neither moralthinking (governed by the norms of the good and the right) norscientific thinking (governed by the norm of truth)suffices.


Lying vs. Telling the Truth - Life, Hope & Truth

As Sartre and Merleau-Ponty would later do, Heidegger pursued theseissues with the somewhat unlikely resources of Edmund Husserl'sphenomenological method. And while not all existential philosopherswere influenced by phenomenology (for instance Jaspers and Marcel), thephilosophical legacy of existentialism is largely tied to the form ittook as an existential version of phenomenology. Husserl's efforts inthe first decades of the twentieth century had been directed towardestablishing a descriptive science of consciousness, by which heunderstood not the object of the natural science of psychology but the“transcendental” field of intentionality, i.e., that whereby ourexperience is meaningful, an experience of somethingas something. The existentialists welcomed Husserl's doctrineof intentionality as a refutation of the Cartesian view according towhich consciousness relates immediately only to its ownrepresentations, ideas, sensations. According to Husserl, consciousnessis our direct openness to the world, one that is governed categorially(normatively) rather than causally; that is, intentionality is not aproperty of the individual mind but the categorial framework in whichmind and world become intelligible.[]